Puzzling the Past: Puzzles, Fossils and Meteorites

People solving prehistoric puzzles at Flandrau

Travel back in time and discover the secrets of Ancient Earth! Flandrau’s new Puzzling the Past exhibits highlight fossils, minerals, and meteorites to tell the story of our planet’s geologic history, from the dawn of life to the rise and fall of the dinosaurs! As you tour through time, you can also test your wits with our hands-on puzzles. Explore!

Geologic Timeline
Did you know that the planet Earth formed 4.6 billion years ago? Incredibly, scientists have put together the puzzle of Ancient Earth by studying rocks and fossils to understand how minerals formed and life evolved over vast spans of time – the Geologic Time Scale. Explore our 24-foot long Geologic Timeline, and learn about Earth’s dynamic and tumultuous past as life emerged in the oceans, changed our atmosphere, and transformed our rocks. And don’t miss the giant life-size replica Tyrannosaurus rex skull, the most famous of dinosaurs!

Minerals and you (aka Minerals in everyday life)
We may not think about it very often, but we all depend on minerals every day – minerals in our cars and our phones and our computers. Those minerals contain vital elements – like iron, aluminum, or gold to name just a few – elements formed during life and death of stars. In this exhibit you’ll learn that amazing story, how elements formed in stars, came together as minerals on Earth, and how the numbers and types of minerals evolved over time as life evolved so that today we can experience a wondrous array of dazzling mineral specimens.

Meteorites are rocks from space, and they hold clues to understanding our Solar System and the cosmos. You’ll see the difference between an asteroid, a meteor, and a meteorite, and you’ll discover how asteroids are different from comets. Learn about the University of Arizona’s leadership in asteroid science, and the breakthrough NASA mission, OSIRIS-REx, that UArizona leads for NASA!

The Beautiful Sphere
The universe if full of spheres – gravity molds stars and planets into spheres with a dizzying range of colors and compositions. The beautiful polished stone spheres in this exhibit come in a range of colors, lusters and patterns that inspire comparisons to planets, familiar and alien. Explore examples of spheres in nature and learn how the force of gravity and the laws of physics are the key to this special shape. You’ll also discover the latest research on exoplanets (planets that orbit other stars, not our Sun) and understand how scientists at the University of Arizona detect the multitude of planets that orbit distant stars.

Trilobites ruled the seas for 250 million years! These long extinct arthropods left behind thrived in vast array of shapes and sizes, and they left behind a fascinating fossil record. See the amazing fossils and learn about the unique adaptations that enabled these creatures to survive through so much of Earth’s history.

Fossil Corner
Did you know that dinosaurs once roamed Arizona? In our Fossil Corner exhibit you’ll see dinosaur bones found near Tucson, you’ll see amazing fossils of ancient creatures, and you’ll travel back in time gazing at our “Paleo Reef” display that shows what life in the oceans looked like millions of years ago. Then play our “how to become a fossil” game and discover how many things have to happen just right for creatures to become a fossil in sedimentary rock. Dig into Flandrau’s Fossil Corner and discover the treasures of Earth’s past.